We sat smack in the middle of the charmingly refurbished old-fashioned theatre in the heart of our little downtown’s Main Street. The girls sat spellbound on either side of us, little bags of popcorn and miniature children’s colas with lids and cheerful striped straws in hand.
On the big screen, there was Nazareth and the cruelly occupied and oppressed people of God, taxed and tyrannized by the powerful Roman Empire. The groaning for a Savior was nearly palpable.
Donkeys brayed; poor people eked out a living. The grape and wheat harvest awaited. The people waited too. A young girl betrothed to a man from a decent family reluctantly made wedding plans.
Until the angel Gabriel appeared to explain God’s plan. It was for a baby, one who would be the Savior of the world. The glitch in the plan was this: the baby preceded the marriage.
“How can this be?” Mary asked, “since I am not married?”
And the glorious explanation—“The power of the Most High will overshadow you . . . and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Mary responded will breathtaking willingness to obey.
The little town buzzed with supposed scandal and Joseph, being the decent man that he was, opted to divorce Mary quietly, rather than oversee the public stoning to which he was entitled.
I lean over to whisper an explanation to the older girls. Engagements in Bible times were taken so seriously that a divorce was necessary to break them.
But the angel appears again, telling Joseph in a dream that all is well. The child is of the Holy Spirit, not of Mary’s unfaithfulness. God’s plan unfolds. Caesar Augustus has decreed that everyone must return to the city of his or her birth for a census.
And the journey to Bethlehem begins. It is arduous as a heavily pregnant Mary travels over desert, streams, rocky ground and shepherd’s pastures. They pass through the ancient majesty of Jerusalem, the same city from which Herod rules; the same city which will one day be wept over by a Redeemer yet unborn.
Mary’s time has come, but there is no room. A frantic Joseph pounds on the doors of the few local inns. There is no room. At last, as we all knew it would happen, a kindly innkeeper apologetically offers all he has left—a stable.
And amid the humble smells and sights of a barn full of animals, cattle lowing, sheep bleating, donkeys stamping, the infant Jesus is born. A choir of angels filled the sky with glory. Mary’s tear-stained face is radiant; Joseph is awed.
The camera pans to the tiny face of the newborn Jesus, precious baby fists flailing atop the swaddling clothes. There is a manger and a baby. I glanced over at Elexa, then five years old, and saw the most precious sight. Her little upturned face was streaked with tears, eyes glowing as she stared in wonder at the baby Jesus.
With the uncanny openness and wisdom of childhood, she understood the significance of one baby, one Savior, one night. And the wonder of the season struck me with freshness as well. I was transported from a theatre to the land of God’s choosing, more than 2,000 years ago.
Viewing through the eyes of a child made all the difference.
Watch the movie, The Nativity Story, with your family this week. Read the story from Luke 2 and be amazed all over again.